CHAPEL HILL The word is there is no word. At least not about the uncertainty that continues to surround P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, the North Carolina guards who have yet to play this season amid NCAA eligibility concerns.
Barring an unforeseen – and unexpected – resolution to their cases, Hairston, a junior, and McDonald, the Tar Heels’ only scholarship senior, will miss their ninth game of the season on Saturday when UNC hosts Kentucky. Roy Williams, the Tar Heels coach, made it sound on Thursday like a resolution might not be close.
Williams, though, said he didn’t “know anything” about how long the case might continue to drag on.
“I would be stunned if I were to go upstairs and somebody would say those guys are eligible to (play) today,” Williams said.
Questions about whether Hairston and McDonald received impermissible benefits have followed them since the summer. Hairston on at least two occasions drove rental cars that have been connected to Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a Durham resident and convicted felon. McDonald, meanwhile, wore a designer mouth guard in at least one game last season, and he appeared in advertising promoting Iceberg Guards, the mouth guard company.
Officials at UNC haven’t often commented on the cases, and haven’t explained why they continue to drag on. One explanation could be that the NCAA already decided Hairston and McDonald’s fate, and that UNC is appealing that decision. Such a scenario might explain the delay.
Regardless, Williams said on Thursday that there was “no update.”
“We’re just staying the course,” he said. “And I’m sure (the NCAA is) trying to do everything they can, too.”
Lengthy NCAA investigations aren’t uncommon – both in broader investigations into entire athletic departments or teams and in smaller investigations involving one or two individuals. If a school appeals an NCAA ruling, a case would take even longer to be decided.
Myck Kabongo, a former guard at Texas, missed more than half of last season after the NCAA began investigating his relationship with an agent. The NCAA originally ruled that Kabango be suspended for the entire season, but after an appeal he returned in mid-February and played in the Longhorns’ final 11 games.
Williams said on Thursday that he has spoken with Rick Barnes, the Texas coach, about how he handled the uncertainty that surrounded Kabango last season.
“We’ve talked, yes,” Williams said. “And it’s tough. You don’t know. But it’s what it is. … You’ve got to go with who can play. That’s really what it is. And you guys – I think I told you this in the press conference (after the victory against Louisville on Nov. 24).
“At one point, I thought my team was worried about it. And then I had to say, hey guys – let’s play. Don’t be concerned about what’s going to happen or anything. We’ve got to play right now.”
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